Who will care for the elderly if Sajid Javid gets his way? The answer is depressing

Javid wants to restrict "low-skilled" immigration

Sajid Javid looks set to try and introduce immigration reforms which will make it much harder for the UK to attract the care workers we need – and women may end up picking up the pieces.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is scheduled to lay out the UK’s post-Brexit immigration plans this week.

The plans have been reported in various newspapers and all the reports agree that he is going to restrict so-called “low-skilled” immigration.

“Low-skilled” immigrants will only be given a visa for one year and only if they come from a country where there is a “low risk of immigration abuse” (who judges that risk and what the criteria is remains unclear).

Unfortunately, many of the people our government calls “low-skilled” are also the people whose skills we most need. 

Carers are perhaps the best example. A 2014 government report listed some “low-skilled roles” and care workers were there alongside cleaners, call-centre workers, hotel, catering and leisure staff.

Yet, with out ageing population, we desperately need people to work in care and the care industry is already struggling to retain and recruit people.

The King’s Fund think tank has found that many carers have already left the UK because of the mere threat of Brexit. Many care companies say the same.

Now, Sajid Javid seems to be about to tell the carers we need that they can only stay for a year, if they’re lucky enough to come from a country considered at a low risk of “immigration abuse”.

Given this, why would a carer from Poland choose to come to the UK over somewhere like France or Germany?

Javid might counter that we’re now open to carers from outside the EU but is someone going to uproot their life and come to the UK when they may be kicked out after just a year?

And will they even be allowed to come or will their country be on Sajid Javid’s “risk of immigration abuse” naughty list?

The Brexiteers may say ‘why can’t British people do these jobs’? Of course, many Brits already work in the care sector but, as Unison Scotland has reported, care workers are overworked and badly-paid. Given this, not many Brits are going to want to enter the sector.

So what would attract new people into the sector? Better pay and conditions would help but many people providing care, both in care homes and peoples’ own homes, work for private companies – often owned by investment banks and multinational companies.

As councils budgets are cut and they can pay less and less to these companies for care, many of these private care companies are struggling to make money and leaving the sector.

A big care company called Allied Healthcare (owned by a German investment bank) is currently scrambling to offload all of its domicilliary care contracts as it runs low on cash.

Lots of other care companies are in the same boat. While they could always cut executive pay and wasted money, can they really afford to pay workers more while their customers (local councils) remain so cash-strapped because of austerity?

So if the worst happens and care collapses, who will look after those who need it? According to the Department of Health, the answer is (mainly) women.

Lots of people will have to quit their jobs to look after elderly relatives and, unless gender roles change drastically, the majority of those people will be women.

So a huge step back for gender equality as well as a risk of letting the elderly going uncared for. Let’s hope Javid reconsiders.

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